Christmas Poems for Gaudete Sunday

Happy Gaudete Sunday!

Gaudete Sunday is the third Sunday in Advent, and although Advent is a season of preparation and penitence, this Sunday is a foretaste of the joy of Christmas, and the liturgical colors for Mass change from violet to rose.  In celebration, I’d like to share a few poems that I got to enjoy this past week at the Catholic Information Center’s Christmas Poetry party.

A nun recited Richard Crashaw’s “A Hymn of the Nativity,” and I particularly liked the middle lines of the second verse excepted below:

I saw the curl’d drops, soft and slow,
    Come hovering o’er the place’s head ;
Offe’ring their whitest sheets of snow,
    To furnish the fair infant’s bed.
Forbear, said I, be not too bold,
Your fleece is white, but ’tis too cold.

I saw th’ obsequious seraphim
    Their rosy fleece of fire bestow,
For well they now can spare their wings,
    Since Heaven itself lies here below.
Well done, said I ;  but are you sure
Your down, so warm, will pass for pure ?

There were some unexpected readings: the entirety of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, “Twas the Night Before Christmas, Legal Edition,” and a recitation of James Taylor’s “Home by Another Way” which I quite enjoyed:

Steer clear of royal welcomes
Avoid a big to-do
A king who would slaughter the innocents
Will not cut a deal for you
He really, really wants those presents
He’ll comb your camel’s fur
Until his boys announce they’ve found trace amounts
Of your frankincense, gold and myrrh

And my favorite poem of the night was also about the the Three Kings.  One of my friends read G.K. Chesterton’s “The Wise Men.”  I’ll excerpt part of it below:

Step softly, under snow or rain,
To find the place where men can pray;
The way is all so very plain
That we may lose the way.

Oh, we have learnt to peer and pore
On tortured puzzles from our youth,
We know all labyrinthine lore,
We are the three wise men of yore,
And we know all things but the truth.

We have gone round and round the hill
And lost the wood among the trees,
And learnt long names for every ill,
And served the mad gods, naming still
The furies the Eumenides.

The gods of violence took the veil
Of vision and philosophy,
The Serpent that brought all men bale,
He bites his own accursed tail,
And calls himself Eternity.

Go humbly…it has hailed and snowed…
With voices low and lanterns lit;
So very simple is the road,
That we may stray from it.

The world grows terrible and white,
And blinding white the breaking day;
We walk bewildered in the light,
For something is too large for sight,
And something much too plain to say.

The season of Advent, including the joy of Gaudete Sunday gives us sign posts on the way to Christmas, and the readings and the rituals help us shape words for something much too plain to say.


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